In the Know: ‘Saudization’
MANILA, Philippines—Saudi Arabia extended the deadline for the regularization of the stay of illegal Filipino workers and other foreign migrants to Nov. 3. Beyond this date, the illegals should return to their countries or they face arrest as the government enforces its “Saudization” policy, giving priority to Saudi Arabian nationals in hiring.
The Saudization, officially known as Saudi nationalization program, or Nitaqat system in Arabic, requires Saudi private companies to allot job slots to Saudi Arabians up to certain levels.
This program aims to improve the employment participation of Saudi Arabians in the private sector and ultimately deal with the kingdom’s unemployment problem.
Saudization has been in effect since June 11, 2011. According to previous reports, the policy has been promulgated since 2006, but the cap on foreign workers has never been strictly enforced.
“From this date, all Saudi companies, estimated to number around 300,000, are required to nationalize, or populate their workforce with Saudi nationals (for those who have not done so) or speed up the hiring of Saudis (for those who are slow to comply or are not complying),” a July 2011 advisory from the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh said.
There have been crackdowns on illegal migrant laborers. But on April 6 this year, the Saudi government delayed the deportations of displaced and undocumented workers for three months to give foreigners in Saudi Arabia a chance to legalize their stay.
King Abdullah set July 3 as the deadline for immigrant regularization but granted the foreign workers a four-month grace period until Nov. 3 in response to appeals from foreign governments whose nationals would be affected by Saudization.
The Commission on Overseas Filipinos recently released a 2012 stock estimate of Philippine citizens overseas, counting 1.27 million Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, nearly 108,000 of whom were listed as “irregular,” or undocumented.
Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), said late last month that the government had repatriated 4,302 undocumented Filipinos and issued travel documents to around 9,000 others.
Some 1,500 who had signified their intent to return home are waiting to be issued immigration clearances.
The DFA, however, could not say how many undocumented Filipinos remain in Saudi Arabia who might fail to correct their immigration status in time for the deadline.
Those who miss the regularization deadline face fines and penalties, including detention, Hernandez said.
Sources: Inquirer Archives
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